The Importance Of Preventing Seizures And Other Problems


So far, the aim of seizure preparedness has been on seizure control. But why is this so important? Research in epilepsy has shown that seizures are just one part of the problem. However, many of the problems that people with epilepsy face can be the result of how seizure activity in the brain affects brain functioning. Other problems may be due to side effects of medicines or complications of seizures. Some of these problems are more pronounced or more likely to occur in people with uncontrolled seizures, as compared to people with well-controlled epilepsy.

For example, people who continue to have seizures are at greater risk of:

  • Injuries
  • Cognitive problems (for example problems with thinking, remembering, problem solving, attention)
  • Mood disorders or problems with depression and anxiety
  • Coordination problems
  • Side effects of medicine
  • Thinning of the bones
  • Reproductive or hormonal problems
  • Dying from complications of seizures or injuries.

Preventing seizures and additional problems must be part of seizure management. This means working together with your health care team to control seizures as best as possible. Ways to prevent seizures and other problems must include taking seizure medicines regularly as noncompliance or problems taking medicines is one of the biggest risk factors for uncontrolled seizures. People can also modify their lifestyle and environment to reduce the likelihood that they will have a seizure. Steps then can be taken to address risk factors for seizures and other problems.

Consider a few examples of how to prevent other problems:

  • Avoiding alcohol and other substances and managing stress may help seizure control and lessen the risk of mood disorders.
  • Keeping good seizure control and avoiding side effects of medicines may help prevent cognitive problems.
  • Keeping a regular sleep schedule can help prevent seizures associated with sleep deprivation, and help with treatment of sleep disorders and stress.
  • Choosing seizure medicines carefully can help lessen the risk of developing thinning of the bones (osteoporosis) or developing hormonal problems that may affect reproduction.
  • Wearing protective helmets can decrease the chance of head trauma.

How To Recognize Signs of Seizures

The first step in being prepared is to recognize warning signs of possible seizures. While a variety of behaviors may occur in different types of seizures, not all behavioral changes are seizures. Some symptoms may be due to other medical problems or events or possibly due to side effects of medicine. When sorting out symptoms, consider these four main characteristics of seizures; seizures are usually…

  • Unpredictable – you often can't predict when and where a seizure may happen
  • Episodic – seizures can come and go
  • Brief - usually last only seconds to a few minutes
  • Stereotypic - symptoms are similar whenever they occur

Now consider the different feelings or behaviors that may occur at the beginning, middle or end of a seizure. Sometimes these symptoms may be considered a warning to a seizure or are part of the seizure itself. If any of these symptoms are present, start keeping track of what occurs and share it with your doctor. Some warning signs of possible seizures may include:

  • Odd feelings, often indescribable
  • Unusual smells, tastes, or feelings
  • Unusual experiences – 'out-of-body' sensations; feeling detached; body looks or feels different; situations or people look unexpectedly familiar or strange
  • Feeling spacey, 'fuzzy', or confused
  • Periods of forgetfulness or memory lapses
  • Daydreaming episodes
  • Jerking movements of an arm, leg, or body
  • Tingling, numbness or feelings of electricity in part of the body
  • Headaches
  • Unexplained confusion, sleepiness, weakness
  • Losing control of urine or stool unexpectedly

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How To Respond To A Seizure Emergency

"What should I do if I (or my friend or loved one) has a seizure?" This is the most common question asked by people with seizures and their friends and families. Nothing is more difficult than feeling helpless when a seizure occurs. This section will help the user be prepared to respond to seizures safely and appropriately.

While responding to seizures may differ for the various types of seizures, there are general guidelines on what to do for all types of seizures. First aid steps can then be tailored to whether a person's awareness is affected during or after a seizure and other specific situations. These responses fall into the category of 'Care and Comfort Seizure First Aid'.

At times, ways to intervene and help stop or shorten seizures may be recommended by your doctor and other health care providers. This is called giving 'as needed' or 'rescue' medicines or treatments. When treatments are recommended as part of your seizure first aid, it is critical that you and anyone who may be with you during a seizure know what to do and how to give these treatments correctly and safely.

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